Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The fortress that has been rescued from obscurity

On September 23rd a huge art exhibition dedicated to the Day of Poltava opened at the Poltava Art Gallery. Many paintings created by local artists were on display to the public. One of those participating in the exhibition is my friend Viktor Babenko, who works as an art teacher  at the Poltava Teachers’ Training University. For many years he has been exploring the history of the Fortress of Poltava, which was built in 1609 by the Kozaks of the Mirgorod Regiment under the command of  Polish Crown Hetman Stanislav Jolkevsky.  In the painting displayed in this exhibition, Viktor has tried to reproduce the vanished features of the fortress, including its many bastions, and to highlight its location on a hillside surrounded by ravines and protected by palisades.

The fortress was the site of one of the most decisive battles in European history. In late April 1709 the Swedish king Charles XII decided to lay siege to the Fortress of Poltava.  Although the Swedish army consisted of about 31,000 men at the time, the king decided to engage only 4 cannons and about 6,000 of his soldiers in the siege.  In order to isolate the Russian troops in the fortress, the Swedish army cut off all access to the fortress, including any possible approaches by the Russians across the Vorskla River. Despite these efforts, the king was defeated soundly by the Russian forces in the Battle of Poltava on June 28, 1709.  As a result Charles XII was forced to abandon the siege and retreat to the south with the remainder of his troops.

In preparation for Tsar Alexander I’s visit to Poltava in 1817 all the remains of the Fortress of Poltava were razed to the ground.  One can, therefore, assume that the Swedish King and his soldiers were the last to see the fortress as it is depicted Viktor Babenko’s painting.  

You may browse other artworks of the painter at his page:

 Sone other paintings by Viktor Babenko